STYLE EVOLUTION

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Overalls at 32 feel awesome. If you have ever been on the fence about buying some try these Levi's (on sale right now). They are cropped, so you don't need to worry about getting the right length.

I play hard in them with my kids, but you can also dress them up with a black turtleneck and heels. Today, I'm wearing them with a high collared white blouse

I have also been loving this fringe jacket (similar) and fringed handbag from Fossil. It's just the bag I need when I'm not toting my diaper bag. Blue goes with everything just as much as black does. Give it a try this summer.

I really feel like I've embrace my comfortable easy style these days. I'm looking forward to sharing my style evolution at the Phoenix Art Museum Story Tellers event. Please check it out and come! 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer; This post contains affiliate links.


UNDERWEAR OVERHAUL

This post is sponsored by Kohl's. The panties included in this post were received as compensation.

When was the last time you completely overhauled your underwear drawer? I mean, seriously, got rid of any torn, worn, old or stained panties, bras and socks. I'll be honest with you guys, it has been years since I have really done that. During my first pregnancy I bought a bunch of new underwear to get me through all of my body changes, and out of sheer laziness I kept underwear that was too big or past its prime because I knew I was going to be pregnant again soon. Now that we have had our second baby and I'm back to my normal body shape, I did a MUCH needed overhaul on my "unmentionables" thanks to Kohl's.

I spent three years of my life as a personal stylist brutally going through my clients' drawers and closets getting rid of anything that didn't fit. I don't know why it took me so long to do the same for myself. Now that I've done it I feel so much more organized. My body is also happier because I'm finally wearing underwear that looks pretty and fits right.

One thing that most people don't know when they purchase underwear is that they should most often buy a size larger than their dress size. Say, what?!

Many people purchase underwear using their dress size, but most underwear falls at the widest parts of our bodies - our hips. That usually qualifies going up one more size. I'm a size 6, but my hips, tummy and butt are more like an 8/10. So, even though I wear medium tops, skirts and dresses, I buy size large in underwear. Doing this will also help avoid indentations and muffin top.

Another thing people don't know is that they need to branch out into different styles and brands to provide various shapes and styles to compliment the dresses, skirts and pants they will be wearing. If you wear jeans daily you can pretty much wear whatever panties you want, but that's not the reality of most women's wardrobes. So, I purchased bikinis, boy shorts, and thongs to meet all of my needs. In addition to different styles you also want to have different colors. Black, white, skin-tone are the main ones to have, and then you can go from there. Subtle patterns are fun to have, but make sure you have plenty of solid pairs of panties because those will show the least underneath your clothing.

I've written out all of the items I purchased, which can be used as a shopping list for your underwear overhaul. If you allocate $200 you can get three new bras, 9 pairs of underwear, socks and tanks during the Kohl's intimates sale taking place from March 3rd to March 16th at your local Kohl's and online. For every $40 you spend you get $10 off. Plus, there will be bonus deals available. Include INTIMATES10 promo code when you purchase online. 

This post is sponsored by Kohl's. I received the included panties as compensation. My blog may contain links to other websites. I am not responsible for the privacy policies of those other websites. When you click on a link, your information may be collected by those websites so I encourage you to read their privacy policies. Any affiliate links are not associated with Kohl's.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer.

REAL TALK REAL MOMS: FRIENDSHIPS

Friendships have always equated to family, especially being an only child. It felt like I had so many sisters growing up. We celebrated holidays together, traveled together and shared our lives together. However, since getting married and becoming a mom, the rank friendships once held has diminished, and rightfully so. My husband and my kids come first, but friendships are still a very necessary part of my life. How to balance them, on the other hand, has become tricky. So, in this installment of the Real Mom Series we are talking about how we maintain friendships. Please be sure to read stories from other moms: Apartment 34The Effortless Chic, The Refined Woman, The Sweetest Occassion

When Elle was born I didn't find it very hard to maintain my friendships. They still took a big chunk of my time, and I was happy to give them the time they deserved. Elle was such an easy baby that she went everywhere with me - to shopping dates, to dinners, to work events...So, it was easy to catch up with friends and stay in their lives. However, when Levi came all of that shifted. Two kids is a lot more work, and, consequently, a lot less spare time for friends. It has taken more intentionality on my part to be a good friend. And truthfully, a lot of them have fallen apart because of it because I just couldn't maintain them all in the way that I wanted to. 

I had to grieve that expectation for myself and my friends. I came to a point of realization that I couldn't have as many friends, and that I the friends that I kept close were the few that I could go deep with. I didn't necessarily just drop people or weed them out. Naturally, I just saw the ones that felt easy and natural. So, proximity plays a big roll, as well as initiation on both parts. 

I have about four good friends that I share with regularly through meet ups, texts and phone calls, and that's about it. And the qualities that I love most about these women are: honesty, a desire to be better, grace for mistakes, and a lot of laughter.

We don't travel together or celebrate holidays together, and they surely don't come before my guy or my kids, but we do share our lives together still. It's just through a lot of intentional conversation, and I've realized that's enough. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


TOO TIRED TO MAKE LEMONADE

Have you ever had moments in life when all of your choices were bad ones? When no amount of thinking, praying or talking things through would fix anything? Moments when no amount of will power, elbow grease, positive thoughts or sugar can make lemonade out of the sour fruit you've been given? I have. I reached this point of hopelessness, fatigue and surrender this past December, and it was a moment that forever changed me and forever made me dislike the phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."

The crux of that phrase is dependency on ourselves (our bodies, our minds, our hearts) to will ourselves to happiness. But I reached a moment when I couldn't will myself - I had no juice left in me. I was spent. I had squeezed and squeezed what good and hope I could find out of my situation with all of my might, but it wasn't working. I was over come with fear, having panic attacks, angry, stressed, sad, exhausted to do much of anything. I was in survival mode. Just trying to get through each minute of each day until I could hit my pillow and sleep.

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To know me, is to know that I'm a fighter. It's like I came out of the womb ready to battle. I'm a rally-er (if that's a thing). I love to rally others to fight too. I rarely stop to smell the roses, to celebrate because, for me, when I am happiest is when I am fighting and restoring things and people, and there's always work to be done. I'm a positive thinker and the first to believe the impossible is possible. So, making lemonade out of lemons is what I do. I own that phrase. Give me a problem and I will solve it!

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When my marriage was on the rocks three years ago I fought, and we signed up for counseling, as well as individual counseling. And when Levi started getting sick regularly I powered through doctor appointments, playdate cancellations and sleepless nights. When my arthritis resurfaced I mind over mattered it, got in to see specialists, took my meds and it was fixed. When time was scarce for my business I burned the midnight oil and got it done. For all of 2016, I basically woke up in fight mode and went to sleep in fight mode - always ready to battle everything and everyone - determined to fix, help and win.

With my inherent fight matched with Ryan's instinctual flight we were just a mess. When things got harder at home with kids and work I just squeezed harder trying to control what things and people I could whether that was Ryan, Elle, Levi, my house or my job. Meanwhile, Ryan tried to make life better by fleeing from the chaos. We coped the way we knew how. I felt abandoned by Ryan in my over-responsible state and Ryan felt unloved in his. When December came around after a hellish November (ear infections, tube surgery, two spells of hand foot and mouth, plus entertaining family) we both came to a point of hopelessness for "us," and we both wondered if separation, the only unturned stone after years of counseling, would be the solution.

Those first nights of December we sat together at total loss on how to fix the mess, and then Levi got strep. And though that me seem small, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I thought my body was going to collapse. I felt like everything was just falling through my hands. I had no control over my circumstances, and now I felt like I was losing control over myself. I did the only thing I knew I could. I escaped.

I called a sitter for the kids, and I fled to Sedona where my parents have a vacation home. When I got there I just sat alone in this big quiet house, breathed in deep and exhaled tears. Tears of fatigue, hopelessness and anger at these lemons, at myself, at Ryan and mostly, at God.

So, I did the one thing I remembered I'm good at - writing. I wrote a letter to God on a yellow legal pad. (I'm looking at it right now as I write this post.) It said:

"God, I know you are with me. I know you are here. I know that you made me. But, I don't know how to love you. I don't know how to feel you. I don't know how to trust you." There was more, but all you need to know is the ending said, "Do you really love me, God?"

In my head I knew the right answer, but my heart didn't. I needed with all my heart to know that He did love me - that He was still my Protector, my Defender, My Father, My Friend.

There was just silence after I set my pen down. And, feeling a bit drained and bored I went into the garage to rummage through some of my old books and things from high school. I found my old year books and old report cards, and there sitting in this cardboard box was a keepsake box. I opened it, and to my surprise there was a pristinely wrapped present in the shape of a small rectangle. It was covered in light blue wrapping paper with a vintage floral print. I thought, "Why would my mom leave a wrapped gift in this box and not tell me?" I had never seen this paper before, and I definitely didn't wrap myself a gift and leave it there. Of course, I opened it (heck, a little gift sounded good right about then anyway). It was a book, Praying God's Will for Your Life, by Stormie Omartian. I thought to myself, "Huh, sounds a bit cheesy, and whose name is Stormie? There's no one in the world that would have given me this book. I said to myself, "Okay, God, apparently you want me to read this book because this is too weird. In fact, it's so weird it sounds like You. And, well, I have nothing better to do. I'll do it."

So, I did. I read almost half of the book in one sitting, and I sobbed through most of it. Though I have been a Christian for 16 years, I had forgotten how to really trust God. And trusting God, needing God is really the foundation of Christianity. I remembered the foundational Truth that no matter how hard I try I can never conquer the lemons of life on my own. I can never make lemonade sweet enough without God. And even if I somehow managed to, it would never quench my thirst. 

So, I let go. I let it all go. I just dumped my whole pitcher out that day. I said, "Here God. You take it. I can't do this," and wept. I asked for forgiveness in that moment for not trusting Him with my babies, my marriage, and my life. And miraculously, I was overcome with peace. I was renewed in that moment. It was like all of the sudden my empty pitcher was overflowing. And you would think it was this everlasting water that you hear the Bible talk about, but it was even better. It tasted like iced coffee, with two pumps classic and 2% milk because my Best Friend, my God knew what I was craving. He sure loves me indeed.

So, I think the saying should actually go something like this: "When life gives you lemons, give them to God, and He'll give you iced coffee," or whatever quenches that thirst of yours. ;) Sorry, Bey, I love your album Lemonade and all, but I think we need a second one now.

When I came back home my problems were still there - still more lemons to face. In fact, Levi has had two more cases of strep since, and Ryan and I are SO much better, but definitely a work in progress. But, there's something different now.  I'm not trying to make lemonade out of the lemons we have or the lemons that will come. I'm just handing them over to God, and trusting Him with what I need. I can't say there haven't been times when I've acted like a toddler whining, "Me do it! Mine!" But, He's so patient, and eventually I give the sour fruit to Him. 

The human part of me prays you never have to come to a point like this in your life, but the spiritual part of me hopes you do, so that you can witness the miracle that comes with no longer relying on your own power; and, rather, experiencing the peace that comes with surrendering your lemons to the only Power that can make the sweetest lemonade (or iced coffee in my case). He has already won the war for you my friend. I promise. I bet my life on it.


SEEDS OF DOUBT

There's a fine line between being pragmatic and sprinkling seeds of doubt. I know this by experience. Seeds of doubt were sewn in me by the people who love me the most - my family. They had no idea at the time, and I know now they are sad at the result of their words, but, nonetheless, they were planted. They looked like seeds that would sprout better choices, safer paths, protection and love, but what grew from phrases like, "Fashion is very competitive. Not many succeed. There isn't a lot of money in fashion. There isn't a demand for styling in Phoenix. You're not as stylish as other girls," grew something ugly. A snarly weed, a critic. She looks and sounds almost exactly like me, but she's not me at all. She's like a  knock off Prada bag, but looks authentic from the outside. 

No matter how much weed killer I put on this fake bitch (I usually don't swear, but that's the only word that fits this lady) she still gets in a word here and there. I give her credit for my business degree and my PR experience - a smart cookie no doubt. I also credit her for the depression, self-esteem battles and tears. The only thing that has quieted her snobby voice is this overwhelming stirring in my Spirit that feels like a fireball (trust me it's not heartburn) - there's no quenching it unless I release it. 

I did it when I started my first blog, AlexandraEvjen.com. It came out again when I got my first logo. And again, when I went I completed my first photo shoot. And again, when I did my first fashion show. And again, when I got over a million followers on Pinterest. And again, when I got my first job with a brand (Glamour Magazine). And again, when my work was first published in print.

That critic is silenced every minute of every day when I get to do what my Spirit has always asked me to do - simply follow this passion. I am so thankful that I had the courage to release this wildfire, but not everyone has this story. Not every person has been able to release this groaning deep within them. Unfortunately, some people have more than one devil wearing Prada bitch in them because more seeds of doubt disguised with pragmatism were sewn - like Johnny Apple seed had a field day. For them, I write this post.

We need to remember these three things when we speak to dreamers:

1. When someone comes to you and shares with you something they are deeply passionate about feel honored that they shared it with you because it comes from a spiritual place not just an idea manufactured by the brain.

2. If you are a realist by nature you can be a HUGE asset to the dreamer. Help them make a step by step plan of action, but be mindful of what you define as failure. Failure to a dreamer is never having tried. Failure to a realist is setting a course of action, trying and getting a different result. Help them try.

2. We as parents, spouses and friends need to nurture what has already been planted. I believe that God plants passions, desires and talents within each human. Some children know at a very early age what those are.  My performing arts high school was full of young dreamers that have since gone on to pursue their dreams because they were nurtured by our education system. I'm so thankful I was one of those kids. So, listen to your kids and dream with them, expose them to opportunities to try new things and keep your desire to protect them from pain in check. 

3. Use your power of influence for good. We all have influence on each other. Be mindful of your super power, and use it to build up not tear down.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer